What Is SSD?
Social Security Disability Insurance is funded through payroll taxes. SSD recipients are considered “insured” because they have worked for a certain number of years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the form of FICA Social Security taxes.
SSD candidates must be younger than 65 and have earned a certain number of “work credits.” (To learn more, see our article on SSD and work credits.) After receiving SSD for two years, a disabled person will become eligible for Medicare.
Under SSD, a disabled person’s spouse and children dependents are eligible to receive partial dependent benefits, called auxiliary benefits. However, only adults over the age of 18 can receive the SSD disability benefit.
There is a five-month waiting period for benefits, meaning that the SSA won’t pay you benefits for the first five months after you become disabled. The amount of the monthly benefit after the waiting period is over depends on your earnings record, much like the Social Security retirement benefit.
What is SSI?
Supplemental Security Income is a program that is strictly need-based, according to income and assets, and is funded by general fund taxes. SSI is called a “means-tested program,” meaning it has nothing to do with work history, but strictly with financial need. To meet the SSI income requirements, you must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple) and a very limited income.
Disabled people who are eligible under the income requirements for SSI are also able to receive Medicaid in the state they reside in. Most people who qualify for SSI will also qualify for food stamps, and the amount an eligible person will receive is dependent on where they live and the amount of regular, monthly income they have. SSI benefits will begin on the first of the month when you first submit your application.
Hiring local representative
Each Social Security case is different, with clients having their own set of disabling medical or mental problems. The SSA office you file with and the Social Security court you will go in front of has its own way of doing things. So I encourage potential clients to make sure they hire a representative from their local area.
You need a representative who is familiar with the local Social Security office, familiar with the local hospitals, clinics, health departments, and how they operate. You also need a representative or attorney who has experience with the local Social Security judges and how they approach their cases.
Representatives who are not in this area may not have the experience to effectively help you with the local offices and local judges.
The Knoxville and East Tennessee areas have plenty of attorneys and representatives who know how to work with the local SSA offices and have plenty of experience with their local judges. So I encourage potential clients to hire someone in their area to represent them in their claim for Social Security benefits. When you first call to hire someone to represent you, make sure you ask them where they are located.
The average case in the Knoxville area takes roughly 18 months from the date you file to the date of the hearing.
Prior Unfavorable Decision
Many clients come to me after they have already been turned down by a judge. They are discouraged and may feel that their case is hopeless. If we feel they have a good case we’ll help them start a new claim. Sometimes we find out that the judge didn’t have all the medical records on the day of the hearing. Sometimes a representative may have overlooked a critical fact.
At my office we routinely take cases where a client has just been denied benefits by the Social Security judge. We look for ways to not only win the new claim, but also to reopen the prior claim. Sometimes we have been able to convince the new judge to reopen the old claim and award benefits for years in the past.
Help With Social Security Forms
As part of the Social Security process the local Social Security Administration sends forms to clients to fill out. The Social Security Administration needs the information to process the claim. These forms can be about a variety of issues, such as work history, or medical history, or your actives of daily life
Many clients have problems with these forms. Clients may not be able to read and write very well, or they are afraid of making a mistake on the forms. At my office we have a staff who is able to help my clients with their forms. Clients can call us and we can help over the phone. Or clients can make an appointment and meet with one of the staff face to face.
Social Security cases are won based in large part on the medical records provided to the judge. But many of our clients have physical and mental issues which keep them from being able to locate their records. My office will always help clients gather their records. We will provide the SSA office with an updated list of doctors, hospitals, and clinics where my client has been treated. If necessary my office will locate those records ourselves and send them to the SSA and the judge.
Meeting With Your Attorney
Helping a client on a Social Security claim is a very personal matter. The best way for me to judge your case is to meet with you face to face. When you contact my office I will speak with you personally over the phone. Then I will make an appointment for you to come in and meet with me personally. We will discuss your case. I will explain your options and how my office can help you during this difficult time period.
Preparing for the hearing
Frequently I am up at the courthouse and I watch a claimant meet with their representative for the first time, just minutes before their hearing. The representative will ask the client about their medical history and their work history. Then they walk into the hearing. At my office we do things differently. We already know your entire medical history long before your hearing. My staff will prepare a brief summarizing your medical condition and legal arguments, and file that with the court in the weeks before your hearing. Then, you will meet with me personally in the days before the hearing. I will go over your case with you. I will explain what the Judge is looking for. I will go over the types of question that the Judge is likely to ask you. I will personally prepare for your hearing.
I represent individuals in Knoxville and the East Tennessee area in every type of SSD and SSI claim and at every level of the process — from initial application to filing appeals in federal District Court. My office is conveniently located in West Knoxville, next to the Social Security court.
My mission, first and foremost, is to act as an effective and committed advocate for my clients. I know that each client’s situation is unique and handle every case with sensitivity and responsiveness.
My staff and I also understand that the process of seeking benefits can be intimidating, so we are committed to guiding clients through every step, no matter how simple or complex, with efficiency and compassion.
In every case, our goal is to help the client obtain the benefits he or she deserves.
How I Can Help You
From the earliest stages of our clients’ cases, I identify and clarify the issues to the Social Security Administration (SSA). My staff will help our clients review and complete forms that are sent to our clients by the SSA in connection with both applications and appeals.
The right answers and responses early in the process can help to avoid later problems, as well as directing SSA to the proper issues in a claimant’s case.
I will personally review your case to determine what additional evidence is needed. This involves obtaining the medical opinions and relevant records from your doctors as they relate to specific points crucial to establishing your disability. We will monitor the progress of your case while it is pending before SSA. We attempt to keep your case on track and moving toward a favorable decision by maintaining constant contact with the SSA.
At all levels of your case, my office will present written arguments supporting your claim. My office will prepare you prior to the hearing and tell you want to expect at your hearing. We will also discuss the claims process with you and explain what the Judge assigned to your case will be looking for.